(Well, actually- yesterday. I didn't post this last night out of respect for the families in Oklahoma. Praying in earnest for all of you.)
It's rare for me to see another family with a child with Down syndrome when I'm out and about town running errands. And when I do? My heart starts racing, my palms grow sweaty, and the question starts spinning round and round in my mind- should I talk to them?
I want to recognize our bond but yet we are complete strangers- should it really matter? It's doubly weird if I happen to be out without children- so it's not like they can look in my cart and just know.
Today I had a dozen stops to make all over town, and thankfully I had a sitter at home with the kids to make this possible. Zipping right through my list with a speed only possible with a kid-free car and a sugar-high from cupcakes that I will totally deny buying...and eating- I was on my second to last stop.
I was searching all around the kids resale shop for a swim suit for Carter (so he didn't have to parade around in Addison's yellow two piece for our trip to Maine this weekend) when I saw her. A beautiful teenage girl out shopping with her mother. The pair stuck close together, and I knew without a doubt that this girl had Down syndrome.
Should I say something? What should I say? It seemed silly for me to make a big deal of it- especially since Addison wasn't with me. But I found myself unable to walk away. After circling around four or five times, I finally found the courage to introduce myself and tell her what a lovely daughter she had.
Very soon into the conversation I found out:
1. She has a son who is 18 months younger than her 14 year old daughter with Down syndrome (Addison and Carter are 19 months apart)
2. Her husband owns and runs his own landscaping company a couple of towns over (this is what my husband does)
3. Her husband teaches skiing in the landscaping off-season (this is also what my husband does)
3. Our daughters share a bunch of doctors- and heart experiences in Boston
4. She stays at home with her kids because of how overwhelming she found the two kids close in age with the added disability factor (yup)
5. Her last name is Smith (um....so is mine)
(Dear Aaron, if you notice a PI trailing you in the near future....)
Pretty much- I met the future me today. What will my life be like in 10 years? I had a chance to see today. And it was pretty awesome.
We chatted, talked, swapped stories, and pretty much found a kindred spirit in each other. It was so amazing to be able to talk with her honestly- we skipped a year of friendship pleasantries and went right to the heart of things. I asked her if her son- as a middle schooler- ever resented the fact that his sister had a disability (she said no). I told her about a new doctor we were trying on Wednesday and she shared their experience there. We discussed being a landscapers wife and the reality of juggling a child with many appointments and a husband who is insanely busy running his own business.
She told me that her girl is reading 120 words a minute, knows fractions and equations, and is a fabulous swimmer. Her son and daughter are very close, play together almost constantly, and have extremely normal sibling squabbles.
By this point her daughter was done browsing the movie titles (since our chat was starting to turn into an afternoon tea) and came over to where we were talking.
"This is Deanna. She has a little girl who also goes to Dr. _. Her little girl also has Down syndrome. Just like you do." The mother lovingly explained to her girl.
"Cool." was the response.
I have always wondered about that. Will Addison understand what is different about her as she grows older? After today, I'm thinking- yes, yes she will.
Also- Addison's orthotic person has been commenting recently on Addison's neck posture- suggesting we get that x-rayed. I brushed it off since Addison's Pediatrician said it was nothing to be worried about. Talking to my new friend, she told me how her daughter fell backwards off a very low futon and had to have her neck fused together. The hyper-mobility in her neck made a very small fall an extremely serious issue. I was so glad to hear this as I am now taking Addison's neck posture concerns much more seriously.
I know I didn't really meet a future "me" (even though there were a lot of rather creepy similarities.) But it was SO refreshing to get a glimpse into a difference phase. A time in life where I can take Addison out and not worry about her running off into traffic. A time in life where my daughter and I can do normal mother/daughter activities instead of constantly being in mommy/baby mode.
Meeting my new friend and her daughter today was rather like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes I struggle so much with the today that I forget that things will get better. Sometimes I worry that Addison will always be a baby- but today I was reminded to hope. Even though there will always be delays- I will see a change, a maturing, a new phase- eventually.
In the daily grind of today I often lose sight of the big picture. And today I felt like I had a museum tour of the big picture. It was incredible.